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The World Court of Justice and the International Court of Justice Compared
Publication date: 2003-10-27

People are asking to explain the difference between the WCJ and ICJ. The comparison between the two courts is given in the table below:

The World Court of Justice and the International Court of Justice Compared
  WCJ ICJ
Name

The Word Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice

Affiliation Independent The United Nations
Location The Internet The Peace Palace, The Hague (Netherlands)
Start of Operation 2001 1946

Functions of the Court

(1) resolution of disputes by use of automated adversarial procedure and (2) clarification of issues in international disputes.

(1) settlement in accordance with international law the legal disputes submitted to it by States, and (2) to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized international organs and agencies.

Composition

The court is an impersonal institution, and its decisions are based solely on the formal procedure defined by its rules. For that reason the decisions of the court do not depend on any person or group of persons or any personal views, wishes or opinions. Any human intervention is restricted solely to insuring that the procedure is followed correctly.

All the court decisions are given in the name of the court.

There are no judges and no juries in the World Court of Justice, but any person in the world, whether he is a party to the case or not can challenge the court's decision by filing with the court Objections to the Draft Judgement.

The Court is composed of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms of office by the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council sitting independently of each other. It may not include more than one judge of any nationality. Elections are held every three years for one-third of the seats, and retiring judges may be re-elected. The Members of the Court do not represent their governments but are independent magistrates.

The judges must possess the qualifications required in their respective countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices, or be jurists of recognized competence in international law. The composition of the Court has also to reflect the main forms of civilization and the principal legal systems of the world.

The Parties

Established national governments, individuals, and groups of individuals in cases involving at least one established national government.

Only States may apply to and appear before the Court. The Member States of the United Nations are so entitled.

Jurisdiction

The jurisdiction of the World Court of Justice is

  1. that of a supranational court, that is, the court will consider cases involving
    1. national governments,
    2. international government groupings or
    3. individuals and groups acting at the level of national governments or international groupings;
  2. that of the Court of Last Resort, that is, the court will review
    1. cases, which have reached the top of the court hierarchy of a national or international court system, and where a party believes that an unjust court decision was given, as well as
    2. cases which are outside of the jurisdiction of any other existing courts.

The jurisdiction of the World Court of Justice is purely declarative. The court has no powers to enforce its judgments, and the value of its judgements is moral and consultative.

The Court is competent to entertain a dispute only if the States concerned have accepted its jurisdiction in one or more of the following ways:

  1. by the conclusion between them of a special agreement to submit the dispute to the Court;
  2. by virtue of a jurisdictional clause, i.e., typically, when they are parties to a treaty containing a provision whereby, in the event of a disagreement over its interpretation or application, one of them may refer the dispute to the Court. Several hundred treaties or conventions contain a clause to such effect;
  3. through the reciprocal effect of declarations made by them under the Statute whereby each has accepted the jurisdiction of the Court as compulsory in the event of a dispute with another State having made a similar declaration. The declarations of 64 States are at present in force, a number of them having been made subject to the exclusion of certain categories of dispute.

Procedure

The operation of the Court is based on a strictly formal procedure, which reduces the case to a series of single-valued statements of fact, supported by statements of relevance and items of evidence. The other party is given opportunity to admit, challenge or ignore these statements.

The issues which are not in dispute are eliminated, and the case is reduced to a number of unresolved issues. These issues are considered by the court, again following strict formal procedure.

Then a draft judgement is given, to which any person in the world can object by filing Objections to the Draft Judgement. If objections are filed, the draft judgement is reviewed in the light of these objections and the final judgement is given.

The court has no powers to enforce its judgements. Its decisions are published on the Internet and in print and have 'moral' influence. They set a standard of impartiality and objectivity, which is impossible to achieve in courts where judgements are based on judicial views and opinions, and are inevitably influenced by the prevalent state ideologies and personal views and prejudices of the judges.

The procedure followed by the Court in contentious cases is defined in its Statute, and in the Rules of Court adopted by it under the Statute.

The proceedings include a written phase, in which the parties file and exchange pleadings, and an oral phase consisting of public hearings at which agents and counsel address the Court.

After the oral proceedings the Court deliberates in camera and then delivers its judgment at a public sitting. The judgment is final and without appeal. Should one of the States involved fail to comply with it, the other party may have recourse to the Security Council of the United Nations.

Sources of law

The Fundamental Principles of Government by Truth Honesty and Justice of the World Court of Justice.

The Court decides in accordance with international treaties and conventions in force, international custom, the general principles of law and, as subsidiary means, judicial decisions and the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists.

Website www.worldjustice.org www.icj-cij.org
E-mail address info@worldjustice.org information@icj-cij.org
Information Office The World Court of Justice
PO Box 10121
Birmingham B27 7YS
UK
Mr. Arthur Witteveen, First Secretary of the Court (tel: + 31 70 302 2336)
Mrs. Laurence Blairon and Mr. Boris Heim, Information Officers (tel: + 31 70 302 2337)

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